It has been a month and a half since SK Telecom T1 crossed the finish line of Season 3 by winning the World Championship and claiming the Summoner’s Cup. All around the world the League of Legends’ competitive scene has turned upside down since then with multiple players switching teams and even regions. Now even though Season 4 is far from officially starting, it’s time for the first post-Season 3 tournament. Some of the new rosters will have the opportunity to test their strength and, if necessary, make adjustments while there’s still plenty of time before the 2014 LCS begins.
IEM Cologne will feature two tournaments - a “pro” and an “amateur” one. The pro competition consists of two LCS teams from North America and Europe respectively, which were chosen based on a community vote, plus one from Turkey and one from the CIS. On the other hand, the amateur tournament’s qualifiers were open for every challenger team in Europe. The ones which succeeded in them are two squads which will be fighting to keep their LCS spots and another two which will do everything in their power to take them away from them during the Promotion tournament next month.
North America looking for revenge
The North America versus Europe argument is as old as the League of Legends competitive scene. The most recent encounter between the two regions was of course the Season 3 World Championship, where Fnatic crushed NA’s last hope by beating Cloud 9 in the quarter-finals. Now Hai and company, the only pro team attending the tournament which hasn’t undergone roster changes, will be looking for revenge. Despite the Kassadin “nerfs”, should they face Fnatic once more, a ban on the slippery assassin is almost guaranteed. Cloud 9 have the advantage of the stable roster on their side. What’s more, they started practicing for the tournament a little earlier than their European rivals. However, the nerfs on most assassins may have affected Hai’s champion pool and that could be a hindrance to the team.
The other team on which the North American fans will rest their hopes is Counter Logic Gaming. CLG have made changes to their roster before every LCS split till now and this one is no exception. After Chauster’s retirement from competitive play and the second benching of bigfatlp from the main roster, the team was left with only 3 players. Tryouts were held and we saw a familiar face return as Aphromoo will once again support Doublelift. A less well-known player, TrickZ, will take on the jungler role. Both of them however were announced only as competing with the team at IEM Cologne and haven’t been signed as permanent additions. It is safe to say that they may not stay in CLG if the team underperforms in Germany.
On home soil
Despite the fact there was never an official announcement made by Fnatic, Rekkles is finally back in the starting roster. What’s more, the young Swede returns exactly for the tournament which was his last one in his previous run with Fnatic - IEM Cologne, and this time he won’t settle for the second place. The bad news for the team, however, is that they only started practicing a week ago because of xPeke’s extended vacation over in the US. They have had magnificent results in the past with less days of scrims, but there were quite some changes in the game in the last month, especially for mid lane champions, which may make it harder for them to defend their reputation of NA slayers.
The not so big surprise of Edward reuniting with his Russian friends in Gambit Gaming brought a lot of hype among the team’s fans. However, it would be foolish to expect that the support player’s return is equal to the wave of a magic wand and Gambit would just start steamrolling through everyone like in their Moscow 5 days. The team has been practicing for the last week and a half and Edward has reported that “they are doing a good job”. Whether he and Genja have fixed their issues and will come back stronger than ever or prove that what’s been broken once can not be fixed though is a question that will be answered very soon.
It’s hard to say anything specific about the Turkish and Russian participants in the tournament, Team Turquality BLUE and The RED, which are newcomers to the international competitive scene. However, be happy it isn’t Team Turquality RED who qualified because that would have been a bit confusing. TT BLUE are one of the strongest teams in Turkey along with Dark Passage, which participated in the wildcard tournament at Gamescom. Likewise, The RED, who will represent their country at the World Cyber Games 2013, are a major team in the CIS and probably second in Russia after Gambit, which unfortunately they will have to face in the first round of the tournament.
It’s hard to call the second tournament which will be held at IEM Cologne “amateur” given the names participating. Ninjas in Pyjamas won the community vote and will for the first time showcase their new roster in Cologne. The team first acquired hyrqBot and Kev1n from SK, and then Zorozero, Nukeduck and Mithy from Lemondogs after Bjergsen’s departure for TSM. With a top laner and a support extra, the team released Kev1n and gave the manager role back to Deficio. What that meant was that only Freeze remained from the old roster and no one from the all Dane lineup acquired by NiP in the beginning of the Summer Split. Since the final announcement, the players have gathered in NiP’s gaming house in Stockholm training hard for this and future tournaments. Their first competitive experience with the new roster will be a great test as to whether they did the right changes which will allow them to once again claim their LCS spot.
SK Gaming are another team which went through a big transformation during the off-season. It will be nothing less than strange seeing them without their scarf-wearing mid laner and captain Ocelote, but it was time for him and SK to go their separate ways. Now joined by a complete newcomer in the high level competitive scene, Jesiz, and two LCS veterans, Fredy122 and Svenskeren, the ever so strong bot lane of “NyphPanda” is trying to bring back the good results and rebuild the former glory of the team. Their current playstyle revolves around aggressive early plays from Svenskeren in mid and bot lane and letting Fredy farm himself up for the majority of the early and mid game, while the rest of the team takes objectives. With only a few weeks of practice that gameplan looked solid when they won the qualifiers for IEM Cologne and Dreamhack Winter, and the EUW Challenger Series #15. However, Jesiz’ first LAN event will be a huge challenge for the youngster and it might lower SK’s chances of winning the tournament.
If anyone expected that Rekkles and Shook’s departures from Copenhagen Wolves will spell the doom of the team, they were clearly wrong. The new additions, Forg1ven and Amazing, may not be as popular as their predecessors, but they meshed well with the rest of the roster. Wolves continued to dominate all on- and offline tournaments they participated in - Riot Turkey’s International Invitational 2, Paris Games Week 2013, EUW Challenger Series #14. Until a few days ago, that is, when they lost against Dignitas UK in the first round of the 15th edition of the Challenger Series. However, that is probably not a sign for any serious trouble in the team - after all no one can win every single game forever. Wolves will meet SK Gaming in their first match in Cologne and regardless of the result, that will be valuable preparation for their participation in the Promotion tournament next month.
TCM Gaming is one of those teams with consistent results in the challenger scene throughout the year, yet they were always lurking under the radar. They qualified for the LCS Promotion tournament at the first possible occasion (the LCS trip to Tenerife during the summer), finished third in Riot Turkey’s International Invitational 2 and second in the EUW Challenger Series #15 after a very close Best of 5 series vs SK Gaming. After a successful run in the IEM Cologne qualifiers, they will now meet one of their possible rivals for a spot in the 2014 LCS, NiP, in the first round of the amateur tournament. Their solid roster, tested in all those recent tournaments, may just be the factor that will give them the advantage against the newly formed lineup of LCS veterans.
Any fans of the competitive scene should tune in for the non-stop action on 23rd and 24th of November as the 10 teams will battle for pride, glory and the biggest share of the prize pool. The possibilities of Doublelift and Rekkles facing each other and restarting their IPL 5 rivalry or the second edition of the Cloud 9 vs Fnatic matchup; the return of the Thresh Prince in Gambit’s lineup and SK’s debut without Ocelote - all of those are definitely on your “do not miss” list.
Article By: Irena Pencheva
Photo Credit: http://us.intelextrememasters.com/season8/cologne/, http://euw.lolesports.com